Residents, elected officials and pastors from various denominations gathered Wednesday morning in The Bridge at Anniston First United Methodist Church for a community prayer breakfast. Interfaith Ministries of Calhoun County and the Chaplain’s Office at Regional Medical Center sponsored the event, which in previous years had only extended the invitation to members on their board.
“Anniston leaders asked the question, ‘Do you have a community prayer breakfast?’” said Martha Vandervoort, the executive director of Faith Ministries. “And so we decided to open this up for the community. Our mission is all about bringing God’s people together, and that’s what it is.”
Although Vandervoort said the timing of the event, the morning after Tuesday’s elections, was a coincidence, reactions and references to the nation’s biggest night of politics were sprinkled throughout the prayers as leaders asked for residents with differences of opinion to stop dividing against one another.
Former Anniston councilman and Kingdom Place Ministries Pastor Marcus Dunn delivered a short sermon on the importance of bringing unity to all of Calhoun County.
“This prayer breakfast is powerful, but what do we do after we leave here,” Dunn asked. “Do we go back to our individual cities? We have to put effort into this. We have to get together like this.”
Dunn’s message of unity echoed the recent theme of the newly elected Anniston city council, who called for the prayer breakfast. While taking office this week, the council members have collectively spoken about their desire to bring one clear vision to Anniston.
“Our plan for the next four years is to keep one foot in the community,” said Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart Wednesday morning at the breakfast. “You can’t have unity without the community being involved.”
Vandervoort wouldn’t say after the breakfast whether Interfaith Ministries planned to make the community gathering an annual event, but said the turnout – roughly 140 people by her estimate – exceeded her expectations.
“I am very pleased,” she said in between greeting people after the breakfast. “The diversity of people here really surprised me.”
And it seemed like the brief prayer get-together pleased many in the faith-based community who came to participate.
“I really think I need something like this every morning,” said David Pawsat, a priest at St. Charles Church in Jacksonville. “Really gets me going and excited for the day.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.